How Do You Define Success?

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During a recent interview, I was asked an interesting question by the host of a popular Australian podcast.

In regard to the ministry of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter he asked, “How do you define success?”

I answered something like this:

Well, the Bible tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice when one lost sinner is saved for eternity (Luke 15:10). So for me, to see one person saved for eternity, I would define that as success. But the Lord has so encouraged us over the years with so many testimonies in person, by email or letters, through phone calls, or posted on social media from people who have been powerfully affected by this ministry. We hear of people converted, families impacted, non-Christian family members challenged with the truth of God’s Word and the gospel, and churches who have changed the way they teach all ages in their various programs.

That’s another aspect of “success”—being faithful to what God has called us to do.

That’s what the ministry is all about and how I define success. There’s also another way I define success. What would the response be if you were to ask the prophet Jeremiah how he would define success, given that, from a human perspective, some would interpret what he did as a failure? I’m sure he would say that success for him was being faithful to what God called him to preach, regardless of whether people believed him or not. And to me, that’s another aspect of “success”—being faithful to what God has called us to do. So we proclaim the truth of God’s Word and the saving gospel. We stand on the authority of God’s Word, and we would never want to knowingly in any way compromise his Word. Regardless of how we’re mocked by the world and even by some from within the church, we stand on God’s Word from the very first verse. Yes, the Lord has entrusted a large organization to us, including the two leading Christian themed attractions in the world. But that’s not defined as success unless we’re being faithful to our calling and impacting lives for the Lord Jesus Christ.

This question about success prompted me to share with you one of the many letters I receive each week—and yes, I do read them all. My assistant puts them all in folders for me to read and take them home, where I also share them with my wife.

I’m sure many of you have been at a meeting, maybe at church or a conference, where you heard a testimony that touched your heart in a special way. Well, one letter I read recently did that for me. In fact, even though I’m not a particularly emotional person, tears did come to my eyes as I read this. All I could say was “thank you, Lord, for using this ministry to touch lives for you.” Please sit back and read this letter, and praise the Lord with us. I asked this young lady for permission to share it with all of you.

Dear Mr. Ham,

I’ve been thinking about writing this letter for quite some time and today, I finally decided to do it. I’m not sure it will be a big deal to you or your ministry, but I had to get my thank you out because it is a big deal to me and my family.

. . . I’m a millennial. I grew up in a Christian home with godly, loving parents . . . I came to faith in Christ when I was very young and was growing in my love and knowledge of Christ every year. Around my junior year in high school, I started thinking seriously about a life of ministry. I asked God to use me, wherever He wanted – and I would be committed to serving Him. Then, my senior year happened.

Things were going great! . . . Until sometime that spring, I was reading my Bible, when doubt hit. Reading my Bible. A thought, however uninvited and unwanted it was, pierced my consciousness like a fiery dart. It was, “How do I know this is true?”

I tried to ignore the doubts. And they only grew worse. They went from doubts about my salvation to doubts about Christ to doubts about the Bible to doubts about God Himself. Over the next weeks, I went into a deep anxiety and depression. I was scared, my mom was scared for me and didn’t understand how to help. I was in the middle of a war in my mind. The mental darkness was exhausting, confusing, and painful.

The thing is—I didn’t go looking for a fight. It came to me! I was being a good kid!

The thing is—I didn’t go looking for a fight. It came to me! I was being a good kid! Reading my Bible daily, active Christian service, and active prayer life didn’t keep me from the fight (looking back now, I’m SO THANKFUL for that battle, but I will get to that in a minute). I was confused. I was praying that God would help me even though I felt like my prayers weren’t going anywhere.

One morning, in the midst of all this, I went to find my dad. (He was calmer about all this than my mom.) He was where he usually was at 6 am—in his basement office, surrounded by his Greek New Testament, various Bible translations, and a few commentaries. I walked into the room and plopped down on the floor.

“Dad, I am so tired. I don’t know how much more of this I can handle.” The doubts played over and over in my mind. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and couldn’t concentrate in school.

He looked up at me from his chair, over top of his glasses and said, “Well, Lizard, (that was his nickname for me), why don’t you try to prove yourself wrong?”

“What? Dad, I want to believe the Bible, not disprove it.”

He looked back at me and smiled, then got up and walked over to his bookshelf, Bible in hand. “Well, this book has stood time and time again when people try to disprove it.” He then began unloading books onto me. “Why don’t you start with these—they’re written by guys smarter than me and they ended up becoming Christians because they couldn’t disprove the Bible.”

And that’s how my love for apologetics started. I read every book on my dad’s apologetics shelf. I began with The Case for Christ and ended up reading article after article on the Answers in Genesis website. My dad and I continued to have lengthy discussions about the validity of the Bible, the personhood of Christ, trials of faith, and many other things.

Eventually, over the next four or five months, the doubts dissolved, but I continued to add reasons to my faith through the resources provided through Answers in Genesis. God used your ministry to help me persevere in the faith and I am so thankful for that.

I graduated from high school in 2008. I enrolled in Bible college that fall. My dad continued to encourage my studies by buying me books and calling me often to discuss what I was learning in my classes (and he often played the “devil’s advocate” to see if I had good reason for different positions I took on different things).

One of my favorite memories was from the summer of 2010. My parents and I attended the [Answers in Genesis] apologetics mega conference in Sevierville, TN. What an experience! My parents and I were blown away! I can’t even put into words what I felt during that conference. Then we went to visit the Creation Museum. It was awesome! We came back to Pennsylvania with a truckload of books, DVDs, pamphlets, etc. to read, pass on, and enjoy. The discussions that ensued after that were equally as thrilling. I can’t thank you enough for hosting that conference and equipping us with so much information on top of the great memories we made looking around the Creation Museum, enjoying the animals and gardens, and just being together.

I have, since then, graduated with a degree in Bible, married, and had two kids, and have hosted various events at our church for kids and teens. My husband and I love using your materials for our church family, as well as our own kids. The A is for Adam book is a huge hit with our sons.

Shortly after we got back from the conference in 2010, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Then pancreatic cancer. Then liver cancer. He battled off and on until this past January when he went home to be with the Lord. But God is so good. When his health really started to decline in fall of last year, he was still determined to go to the Answers for Pastors conference, “One Race, One Blood,” because he so loved attending these conferences. That one was his last, and he wasn’t able to attend all of the sessions, but I got to hear lots about the ones he was able to sit in on.

I miss my dad, but I am so thankful for everything he taught me. I am so thankful that he encouraged me to ask questions—and not to be afraid because there are answers!

We do walk by faith, but it is not an unreasonable faith. It is a fact-filled faith. It is a sure faith. It is a good faith.

. . . I’m not sure where I would be if not for the answers I found through your ministry . . . Thank you, so much, again. For everything.

Wow! How gracious of her to write this to encourage us in regard to the impact of the AiG ministry. Now that’s how I define “success.”

And what better way to finish this letter than with God’s own words to Jeremiah that in essence define “success.”

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)

Ah yes! The most important thing for all of us is that we glory in the Lord Jesus Christ, not in the things of this world or on anything we think we may have done.

Thank you for enabling AiG to impact people like this young lady, and to see that impact continue on in her family and those she ministers to. Thank you for helping us provide the many practical resources that were so helpful in her life. Please help us to continue reaching people so many more will glory in Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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